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UPEI faculty producing personal protective equipment for Island health-care workers

Engineering technologist Check Terrio works on bands for protective face shields being produced by the UPEI Faculty of Sustainable Engineering.
Engineering technologist Chuck Terrio works on bands for protective face shields being produced by the UPEI Faculty of Sustainable Engineering. - Contributed

The UPEI faculty of sustainable design engineering (FSDE) has launched a project to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) for health-care workers on P.E.I. should a shortage occur because of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) situation.

This initiative arose from a meeting between Kathie McNally, director of health services, P.E.I. Department of Health and Wellness; Todd Gillis, director of materials management at Health P.E.I.; and a team of FSDE faculty and technical and engineering staff.

Nicholas Krouglicof, dean of the FSDE, is representing UPEI on a provincial COVID-19 task force to ensure that leadership, co-ordination, credible evidence and support are provided to community business leaders, researchers, academic institutions and industry who are bringing forth ideas for innovative health care supplies and PPE during the pandemic.

The FSDE team has designed prototype face shields that can be sterilized and reused.

The face shields are made from laser-cut clear PETG sheets that are then formed in CNC-machined molds using heat.

PETG is a polyester commonly used to produce food and beverage containers. CNC—computer numerical control-- machining is a manufacturing process by which a part is cut out of a solid block of material using a prep-programmed computer program.

Krouglicof said the evaluation of the prototype face shields was “extremely positive”.

Having starting manufacturing on April 1, the 900 face shields are hoping to be completed by April 7.

The faculty’s engineering technologists and staff engineers are on-site in the FSDE building, manufacturing components or assembling face shields, and several faculty members have volunteered to help.

To ensure that social distancing is observed, the work force is distributed throughout the building, and PPE and disinfectant products are available to everyone.

The team is also working on designing surgical masks and has sent several prototypes to IRSST in Montreal for testing. The design of the masks is simple and are made from readily available materials.

For example, non-woven polypropylene (NWPP) is commonly used for the outer layers of surgical masks. The Atlantic Veterinary College (AVC) provided samples of NWPP to the FSDE team in the form of reusable surgical wrap.

They are also working on an N95 mask with a removable HEPA filter.

N95 masks fit closely to the wearer’s face and need to be formed over a mold that can be either 3D-printed or vacuum formed.

The FSDE team will cast a high-temperature silicone rubber material into a mold that has been 3D printed and can be reused multiple times.

The FSDE team working on the project includes Krouglicof; Wayne Peters, associate dean, academic engineering; Ali Ahmadi, biomedical engineering; Grant McSorley, product design; Wayne Simmons, industry research engineer; Tyler Gallant, lead experimental engineer; David Taylor, manager of industry research and operations; Kaaren May, director of industry research; Anthony Van Beek, engineering technologist; Jeff Bowser, design technician; and Janice Murphy, financial planning officer.


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